Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter things

Again.  Long time since I have blogged.  I am just going to jump right into it then.  So here we go….

Easter in Spain is very interesting.  It is so different from anything I have ever experienced before, and it just makes me sad.  Here they have traditions that are more historical in background and yet still as empty as our Easter bunny and egg hunts.  While none of these things are necessarily bad or harmful, they are quite void of the real meaning of what we should be celebrating.  Basically what happens here is there are about 5 processions (parade things) each day starting on Palm Sunday.  These processions consist of a group of people who carry these GINORMOUS and HEAVY images of Christ and the Virgen throughout the city, accompanied by a band and a bunch of people walking that are wearing these huge cone things on their heads.  Think KKK costumes, only in different colors.  To be a part of a procession is considered by many to be a giant honor, and a lot of people do it to pay penitence.  It is quite…..interesting.  I was mostly pretty depressed by the whole thing for a number of reasons, but I really can’t be too harsh on how they celebrate.  My background is quite different from theirs and I don’t share their traditions.  It is quite a statement of dedication though when you think about how some of the guys carrying this huge platform with the statue thing do so for 11 hours for one of the parades in particular.  INSANE. 

So while I am glad that we were able to experience a different cultural celebration, I am also relieved that I will probably never be here again during this time of the year.  It just made me really sad that Jesus and the Hope we have in Him was not really what was being celebrated by the city.  A lot of time is spent focusing on His death.  Yes, Jesus died for us.  This Love is RIDICULOUS.  But He rose!  That is the reason we have Life!  He is alive.  He conquered death.  He crushed Satan.  We are more than conquerors through Him because of this.  It’s incredible!  THAT is what I celebrate. 

All in all, Easter week was just weird.  Most of our activities were cancelled due to Semana Santa, but at the same time, we still felt busy although not a whole lot was accomplished.  It was just a rough week.  There were some definite highlights tho.  On Good Friday, we watched The Passion of the Christ with Mrs. J (Mr. P was walking the Camino to Santiago with a friend the whole week).  It was so good to remember better visually all that Jesus did for us.  His love is out of this world.  In the beginning of the movie, Satan is talking to Jesus and he says something along the lines of, “You can’t do this, Jesus.  The sin in this world is too great.  No one man can take it all.  It’s too big.”  And really, it’s sorta true.  He took on Himself ALL the sin in the world that ever was, is and is to come.  And not only that, He took our hurts and sicknesses.  The Father couldn’t even look at Him.  So not only was His physical pain unbearable, but then He had separation from His Father and all sorts of emotional trauma on Him as well.  His sacrifice is beyond my comprehension.  And His Love and self-control were insane as well.  As people mocked Him, He could have struck them down with lightning or had the earth swallow them up.  But He didn’t.  Instead, He died for them.  I just can’t even imagine.  And after all this, He desires to be my friend.  WHAT?! 

Ok.  Enough of that rambling.  I just hope you too reflect on just how much Jesus loves you and what He went through to bring glory to His Father.  Another thing we got to do on the Saturday before Easter Sunday was hang out with our Fe Y Vida friends pretty much all day.  They had a retreat from Thursday night til Sunday afternoon, but we just went to hang out on Saturday.  It was a lot of fun!  During the day we just chilled and played with kids, and in the evening they had their big service.  It was like a 3.5 hour mass ish thing.  Wowzers.  Lots of Bible reading and singing, but then at the end they were just rejoicing like crazy.  Seriously, it was so awesome to see.  The service actually went longer than it was supposed to because everyone kept chanting for more songs.  They were dancing and shouting.  Passion.  They have passion, and it is contagious.  It was impossible to not smile during all of it.  So the service ended at like 1215 and then there were tapas to share afterward.  Pretty much the whole week leading up to Easter was one of late (or early, depending on how you look at it) bedtimes :]

The next morning we got up very early and met Mrs. J to go to the San Cristobal lookout where we met two other couples and had a little sunrise service.  It was so good!  We sang some songs and then just shraed about what God was putting on our hearts and what Easter means to us.  Then we had a brunch (for which we made “cinnamon rolls” only this time they were like swirly bricks of bread…..not our best work :[).  The rest of the day was then like normal Sundays with a picnic in the plaza and then church in the evening.  Just really good. 

This past week was mainly just a normal week for us.  A few things got cancelled due to random people’s schedules, but overall it was a good week.  The more we hang out with friends here, the more I realize how hard it is going to be to leave.  But, I am not going to talk about that yet.  We still have 3 weeks here.  I am going to soak up as much of that time without being sad for as long as possible. 

Sorry it has taken me so long to inform you all of what is going on.  The closer we get to leaving, the harder it seems to be for me to be motivated to sit down and write.  Just a mental thing really. 

As of recently, God has just been speaking to me a lot about how much I am willing to give up for Him.  Matthew 16:25 just took on a new meaning I guess.  As I was reflecting over Easter and all that He did for us, I realized that I spend an awful lot of time thinking about the future and worrying about dumb things.  And I think about how I am going to need to give up different things and how it is going to be hard.  And then it’s like…..”Kirsten.  Stop.  Think about what Jesus did for you.  Are you serious?  And you think that YOU are making a sacrifice?  SHUT UP.”  The crazy thing is, Jesus cares about these things.  He gets it.  Basically, I should count it a privilege to “sacrifice” things for Him.  And really, the more I depend on Him, the less I should depend on theses earthly things…..right?  If I’m going to talk the talk, I better get my walking on too.  I don’t know if you all could follow that rambling, but hopefully it spurs some of you on to think as well :] 

Sorry, friends.  3 weeks.  That is all I have left.  So, if you email me, know that I love it, but also know that you may not get a reply before I get home.  Sounds harsh, but please understand.  I love the encouragement and hearing about home, but time here is sparse.  I will try to do a better job of blogging though so that you all can stay informed still.  Thanks so much for reading this.  Please continue to pray for:
-          Nigel.  We are actually taking him out to lunch tomorrow, so pray for good conversations.  And that the Lord would continue softening his heart. 
-          Team unity.  We want to finish strong and teach love by living it out among ourselves daily. 
-          Cristina.  The she would come to intercambio with us tomorrow and get to know our Fe Y Vida friends and that we could continue growing in our friendship with her. 
-          Encouragement for the long time workers.  Life here without seeing much change can be very frustrating.  So please pray specifically for Mr. P and Mrs. J, that they would know that this is not for nothing and that we could just really encourage them.  And also for their friends that they are constantly loving and pouring into. 
-          The prayer conference next weekend.  We will be providing childcare for 4 days as many couples from our church are attending.  Pray for refreshment and understanding. 

Thanks so much!  Have a great rest of this month!  And see most of you in about one more!   

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This is Home.....and Love is here.

Well, folks.  God continues to just blow my mind.  And I am going to tell you why. 

So, if you read my blog about 3 posts back, you learned about our friend Nigel.  Well, it had been quite a long time since we had last seen him…..over 3 weeks.  I had pretty much given up hope of seeing him again.  I figured he had gone north like he was planning to and just didn’t tell us.  But also, last week one of his friends here named Juan told Latte that Nigel had thrown up blood (at least that is what she thought he said……he is normally intoxicated and has a very heavy accent as it is), so I just did not have a good feeling about ever seeing him again.  I still prayed for it to happen and asked all of you to also pray with us, but it was more out of desperation than anything. 

Well, yesterday, Nicky and I were walking to intercambio and talking like always when all of the sudden I looked over to one spot where he used to sit a lot (a habit that I just couldn’t give up, even though I never expected to see him) and wouldn’t you know……he was there.  I just stopped and gasped.  Seriously.  My heart was SO happy!  Nicky then whipped her head over, and we immediately crossed over the street and went to talk to our good buddy.  As we were crossing the street, I told Nicky that we are most definitely taking a picture with him.  That is one of the things that I regretted the most when I thought that he was gone, because I would have no way of showing you all back home this man that has taught me so much without even realizing it.   

So we got over to him and quickly figured out just why he had disappeared.  Turns out the guy has tuberculosis.  Yeah!  Kinda a big deal.  He had been in the hospital 3 weeks, and they released him because he is no longer contagious….as long as he keeps taking his medicine…..for the next 6 months.  Yup.  6 months.  This means a couple of things.  Nigel MUST stay in Granada because he has to pick up his medicine daily at the hospital, and if he doesn’t, the police will be notified because he could cause an outbreak of TB.  It also means that Nigel MUST stop drinking for the next 6 months or else the medicine will not work and he will die.  …….let us just all take a moment to realize how AWESOME our God is.  I actually teared up when I put all of this together (and you know how big of a deal that is).  This whole time I was so confused with God for letting Nigel “leave”.  Turns out He was just making it a necessity for Nigel to stay with us the rest of our time here and do it sober. 

Now I know most of you are thinking that a drunk like him cannot just give up drinking like that and be fine; I thought the same thing.  But, he is doing it!  He says he has done it many times for months at a time, and now that his life depends on it he is for sure going to.  He’s quite stubborn and smart.  He drinks water, Cocacola, juiced mixed with water, or this “beer without alcohol stuff”.  But I have witnessed him every day for the past week almost……he is not drinking.  He has not had a drink since March 17th actually.  That is another thing about Nigel…..he has an amazing memory.  He remembers our names (or the nicknames he has given us) and even remembers my friend Rachel’s name from the one time he met her.  He is a very intelligent man. 

Basically, I just can’t get over how awesome God is.  I don’t know why I always forget to just trust that He is doing the absolute best thing.  He is SO much bigger than I can even fathom…..nothing is random.  Nothing.  He has it all planned out.  I love it.  So far I have talked to Nigel quite a lot since he has been back.  He actually played his guitar for me the other day… was awesome.  And he is a lot happier now that he is sober.  He doesn’t believe us when we tell him that, but he really is different.  Just please keep praying for him.  I think God is working on his heart, and he is just fighting back for obvious reasons.  The good thing is, God has made me LOVE loving Nigel.  So glad I have more time to do it. 

On a different note, life here has become home.  Now, Mom, please don’t freak out.  Listen to what I mean.  It’s just normal, you know?  Like, we walk down the street and see people we know and stop to talk to them.  That is COOL.  I love it here!  I love that we have to walk and then by walking we see friends.  It always goes in my book of happys whenever that happens.  And I mean, we got the opportunity to go to a birthday party for our friend Marta who turned 18.  What I want to know is why birthday parties in the states are not like the one we had a blast at.  They had youtube songs going pretty much the entire time, starting out with Disney songs, and mics to sing along with if you wanted.  And there were snacks, fun dancing (which I mainly just watched), lots of pictures being taken and many more laughs.  It was just so good!  And it just really made me realize……this is my home right now.  Now, home will always be Ohio in my life.  Always.  It’s where I’ve grown up.  A large majority of the people I love live there (although that majority is growing less major the more people I meet in other places around the world too).  And I mean, cmon…..I’ll be a buckeye until the day I die.  But, for now, I am very grateful for this home as well. 

Now, let me again just jump topics and tell you about last Tuesday.  Nicky and I had the opportunity to help out with the food distribution through our church again.  It was so good!  I enjoy it a lot.  Doing stuff like that reminds me why I am on this earth.  I love being able to bless people.  There was one family in particular that I really enjoyed helping.  While the mom was getting all the information squared away, I tried talking to her daughter who was quite shy.  Her name is Sabri, and she was just so cute.  I couldn’t get her to say much, but I tried, and she enjoyed it.  I found out that she was 12 years old, and guessed that her favorite color was pink (since her shirt, pants, AND shoes were that color).  And I just talked to her about bracelets and movies and things.  So we loaded up all of their food, which was QUITE the load, and it became very obvious that they were not going to be able to get it all in one trip.  I asked if they lived nearby and the mom (whose name starts with an N but is Moroccan, and I can’t remember how to pronounce it) said yes.  So I asked if I could help them transport it.  She was hesitant at first, but I insisted, and she agreed.  Wowzers.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day out, but also very hot.  So I walked for about 7 minutes or so with them to their house.  They were SO grateful.  She offered me up to their place to rest and have tea, but unfortunately I had to decline and get back to help the other families.  It was such a privilege though!  So I got back to the church and was waiting for the next family to come through, and all of the sudden I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned, and there was sweet Sabri, holding out two of her rubber band bracelets to me.  I told her that I would just take one, but she insisted that I take them both.  Seriously… heart just melted.  I gave her a hug and thanked her, and then, she was gone.  Just like that.  It still makes me smile just thinking about it.  I am so stinking blessed. 

Are you all confused yet on where I am going with this blog?  Because I sure am.  There are just things that keep popping into my head that I want to remember.  For instance, yesterday we had a silent retreat day that was just so good for me.  I finished the Old Testament!  And I slept, started the book called Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, and just had a really relaxing day with Jesus.  He showed me that I really do worry an awful lot about the future but also reassured me that I don’t need to….He’s got it!  Silly, Kirsten.  Always assuming the worst.  Anyway, the silence was supposed to go until 10 pm, so I started to make dinner.  I blockaded the kitchen with chairs and our super obnoxious tree plant thing.  Mom, you would be so proud.  I made our delicious meatballs and a small salad, and then whipped up some chocolate chip cookie dough to munch on while we watched Frozen after dinner.  I can only think of a handful of times that I have made any sort of food just because I wanted to bless people, and I have NEVER made a meal.  And while this meal wasn’t intense at all, I was still excited to do it for my girls.  I love them a whole lot.  And it was a great night indeed.  Watching Frozen in English made it 1234098 times funnier.  Olaf is my favorite obviously.  Great, great night.  And today has also been great.  I even gave in to the pleadings of some and allowed us to watch Frozen yet AGAIN while we ate lunch today :]

Basically, God has just been showing me how so often I ruin stuff by worrying and expecting the worst, when really He has it all worked out.  I just need to be patient.  Even my Spanish teacher has scolded me for being so impatient with my Spanish skills.  While they are not nearly as polished as I would like, I HAVE learned stuff and grown in my communicating.  I just need to do a better job of enjoying the journey that I am on instead of regretting things from the past or thinking over the future all the time.  I wanna live presently.  I wanna love always.  And I want to love better.  It needs to be my goal always.  It’s the only Thing that matters. 

A fun fact for you all before I sign off…….nuns can be angry.  Luckily it was not the Hermana Antonia that we have grown to love.  No….this was a different nun that was having QUITE a bad day.  Yes, folks.  I was scolded by a nun.  How many people can say that?  Heehee. 

So my challenge to you all is to go love.  Whether you are irritated with your kids’ whining, your friend obsessing over their boyfriend/girlfriend, a nun having quite the grumpy attitude, your neighbor asking to borrow yet another tool, the girl walking down the streets in shorts that could be substituted for underwear, your waiter that STILL hasn’t filled up your drink, or the cashier who is taking forever because she is flirting with the customer in front of you, remember……you have a choice.  You can show your irritation and most likely make the situation worse OR you can shower that person with the Love that you have been given and remind yourself that you may be the only person that day to do so.  Think about it.  We don’t deserve Love, but we were given It.  Do that for others. 

Love you guys!  Please continue to pray for:
-       Team unity…..we want to finish out strong and not let our own relationships slip by being “too busy” to be intentional
-       Nigel
-       A focus on the NOW and the love that we can give
-       Granada in general as the Easter festivities have begun and are quite……interesting (more on that in the next post)
-       Cristina, our friend that we help with English

Thanks!  Have a fantastic week!  Remember what Love did for us and why we celebrate Easter!  

Monday, April 7, 2014


Wowzers.  It has been a LONG time since I last blogged.  Actually, my last post was just an article that I had written for a newsletter, which means that it has been even longer than that since I have sat down and wrote a post.  You know when you do something you love a lot, and then all of the sudden, you get busy and then the thought of doing that thing you love is just overwhelming?  Well, if you followed that at all, that is where I have been with blogging.  I love to do it, but I just kinda got burnt out on it.  But now I really want to again, so here we go :]

Some exciting new developments have happened in the last few weeks.  So I am just going to jot down the things that come to my mind.  Some important and noteworthy, and others not so much :]
-          Picnic in the plaza- This was started by Kevin and his family along with the help of 2 other couples when they lived here.  Basically, there was a plaza the Kevin walked through every day, and a bunch of homeless people would congregate there.  So they began to bring sandwich material to the plaza and have a picnic with anyone who wanted to eat.  It grew each week and they made many good friends through it.  So we have begun to go to the same plaza with Margaret, a lady who helped with this 4 years ago with the old group.  It has gone really well so far!  We go every Sunday, and I enjoy it a lot.  It is kinda hard because I feel like I can’t communicate very well with them because since they are a little tipsy/have few teeth/use a lot of street slang, I can’t understand them very well or figure out what I want to say in Spanish.  But communication has gone better each week.  Please keep this in your prayers.  We are excited because this is an outreach opportunity that was very heavy on our heart, and God worked it out perfectly.  Just pray that he takes our brokenness and sandwiches and makes something out of them. 
-          Tea talk Tertulias- On Thursday nights we have started helping out with a new intercambio called Tertulias.  It takes place at a Moroccan tea shop and is directed towards young college aged kids mainly.  So we speak English and drink tea or milkshakes or whatever.  MMM.  If ya’ll are ever in Granada, I highly recommend Pakistani tea from any Moroccan tea shop.  It makes life happy.  :]
-          We went on vacation to Malaga a couple of weeks ago. Yes, folks, vacation.  And what a beautiful place we did see.  Because I am very blessed and loved, my parents gifted us a stay at a resort in Malaga, a city 2 hours ish from our area.   To be quite honest, it was blissful and filled with laziness.  Fortunately, this is exactly what we were interested in (mostly).  The first full day we were there was really nice, so we soaked up the sun and enjoyed all the beauty.  Unfortunately, the next two days proved to be rainy and cold, so much idleness ensued for most of us.  Turns out that coloring books with crayons are great entertainment, and Youtube can keep you distracted for hours.  These activities were joined by reading, movies, sleep, food, swimming in the indoor pool/hot tub, and for some of us (COUGH Latte COUGH) hours in the gym.  So although it was rather unproductive, I think we can all say we are refreshed and ready to make the most of the last 6 weeks we have in this wonderful place. 
-          Flamenco is AWESOME.  Wow.  My mind was blown a little bit by the talent that I got to witness on Thursday.  The show was up in the old part of the city called the Albaicin and it started at 11 pm.  We sat at a table and they gave us a drink while we watched skill do its thing all over the stage.  Now, I don’t really get the whole flamenco singing thing…….I know it takes a lot of talent and whatnot, but the yelling style of song is just not my thing.  But, WOW.  The guitar players……EEEEEK.  They are RIDICULOUS.  Flamenco guitar playing is a skill you practice and acquire over a lifetime.  It is incredible.  And the dancers.  MY WORD.  They fly.  We actually couldn’t even see their feet very well from our seat, but even if we did have a good look at them, I doubt we could see them much better.  They move so fast!  It’s like tap, stepping, salsa, and ballet had a baby and they called the dance flamenco.  Really cool.  So glad we got to see it!
-          Weekends are usually pretty open for us to do random things, since all of our week nights are full of activities.  This past Saturday two of my favorite amigos, Jose Pablo (who I am trying to call JP) and Enrique, planned to come play basketball with me.  What started out as the 3 of us balling turned into all of us plus another friend named Isaac.  So the 7 of us went to the “hood” of our neighborhood and played for 2 hours.  It was a BLAST.  It even got Nicky hooked on basketball, which I am very excited about.  And it was cool just to hang out with friends because they wanted to, not because something was planned and we just happened to be there.  The first “game” we played with JP, Enrique, me, and a random little kid named Ismael that wanted to play, against the rest of the girls and Isaac.  So, the dream team vs. the rest :]  EEEK.   I love them.  We have lots of fun together and laugh so much.  Look out, world.  These two are graduating this year and are going to do big things with their lives. 
-          We learned how to make roscos, which are little donutish things that really aren’t that sugary tasting.  The ones we made are lemon flavored and very delicious fresh.  Mrs. J’s friend Maria taught us on Saturday afternoon, so we had a good time having merienda with her. 
-          Finger painting and prayer go well together.  I bought some paints and a poster and we each had a section of it to paint.  As we painted different people’s names we prayed for them.  I don’t know…..I just had a lot of fun with it and it is really fun to look at.  I also love how it shows our different personalities (sorta) by the differences in painting styles and such.  Just very cool. 
-          Insanity is STUPID…..the workout that is.  If you don’t know what Insanity is, just look it up.  I hate it, but I also kinda love it.  So far I have completed 8 days of it.  I have learned with myself that if I set a big goal, like completing the 2 month program of Insanity, I will not do it.  But, if I set small goals that lead to a big goal, I am much more likely to stick with something.  So my goal is to get to day 10 of Insanity right now.  We will see if that happens :]  But, I do have a bit of a funny story.  On Saturday after basketball, we still needed to do our exercise for the day, but because of our previous mishap with our neighbors below us, we didn’t wanna disturb them by all of our jumping and things.  So, we decided to do Insanity on the roof.  Well, it just so happened to be Plyos day (which is my least favorite) and like 80 degrees outside.  It was SO HOT.  Seriously.  Never again.  Also, we had 2 old ladies on a neighboring roof just stare at us for like 3 minutes while we did our warmups.  Lol  That was a bit awkward.  By the time we were done, we were VERY thankful to get a cold shower. 
-          This week I am going to start helping out with a random lady’s daughter’s English.  Yeah…..weird connection.  Martina, the mother, helps out at the nun’s place sometimes with us on Tuesday.  She asked if we would be able to help her daughter who is failing English with her studies so that she can pass the class and ultimately her grade.  Last Friday I met with her daughter, Mariza, and we talked about life for a while to get to know each other.  She is 16 years old and a really sweet girl.  So that is another activity I can help out with while we are here on Friday afternoons before Fe Y Vida.  
-          Elevators here are TINY.  When we first got here we thought it was so funny that they were so little, but now we are used to them.  Last night I was reminded though of just how little they are by watching a video taken at the RIC.  The elevator door opened, and I was like, “Woah, guys!  Look at the elevator!  It’s ginormous!”  True story.  Briana says she is going to hang out in the elevator when we get back, just because there is so much space.  Lol

That is all of the random things I can think of from the past few weeks.  And I kinda at a loss for words on what else to say.  I want to talk more about what is going on inside of me, but at this point, I honestly don’t really even know what I am thinking.  I feel as though after vacation, we had quite a few things to do and stuff got busy, and I just haven’t really processed anything.  I don’t know.  I will try to explain myself and figure it out here soon, and then update you all a little better on that with my next post, which shouldn’t take as long to upload.  So yeah.  I will just post again soon (hopefully) and talk more about what I have been challenged/struggling with.  Until then, thanks so much for reading this and praying for us.  It really does make such a big difference in our lives.  Please pray for team unity.  I love these girls so much, and we just want to finish our time out here strong, which is done best by loving each other.  Also, please continue to pray for Nigel as we have not seen him for over 2 weeks.  I fear that he has gone north without telling us goodbye.  Our God is big and can do anything.  Pray that He continues to work in Nigel’s heart. 

Have a fantastic week and keep looking up!